Unsolicited Advice: Mind Reading

A word on interpersonal interactions.

If I ask and I am told that there is no problem, I will conclude that there is no problem. If there is indeed a problem, the person or persons with the problem should come to me and explain the problem. Once I am aware of the problem, we can (hopefully) work together to fix the problem.  I am not a mind-reader and I will not spend time developing those skills.

If I ask if there is a problem, and I am told there is no problem, I will conclude there is no problem. If indeed there is a problem, and the person or persons with the problem refuse to say that there is a problem- we will be unable to fix the problem.

Choosing to respond to my non-acknowledgment of a problem that I was told was a non-problem by any of the following behaviours:

  • Ambiguity and cryptic speech: a means of creating a feeling of insecurity in others or of disguising one’s own insecurities;
  • Intentional inefficiency, e.g. being late or forgetting things, as a way to exert control or to punish;
  • Convenient forgetfulness: to win any argument with a dishonest denial of actual events;
  • Cold shoulder response: withdrawing into long silences to avoid either confronting or connecting with others.
  • Obstructionism;
  • Sulking;
  • Victimization response: instead of recognizing one’s own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.

will earn the label passive aggressive. I have no desire to interact with individuals who intentionally try to harm or manipulate  me in this way. Life is just too short.


How many seminars… and emails announcing those seminars is enough…?

I’m overwhelmed by the plethora of seminars and journal clubs available to attend in departments or programs that I’m closely affiliated with on this campus. We have a Monday afternoon seminar, two Wednesday journal clubs (these meet simultaneously so one just has to make a choice), a Tuesday 11:30 seminar, and both Wednesday and Thursday afternoon seminars. I shouldn’t complain, more opportunity to learn ze hot scienz is better than less- right?

Here comes the complaining part: I’m just mystified  with the voluminous and totally unnecessary amount of email that I get advertising said seminars and journal clubs. I listed 6 events up there- but I get way more than 6 emails advertising those events. There are folks on campus that feel they need to send out two emails literally 1 second apart advertising these seminars, like two weeks in advance. Then, well meaning individuals feel the need to forward all the seminar announcements again- usually there is one or two departmental persons who will do this, and a couple of dean-type individuals. So now I’ve gotten 6 emails about the same seminar, two weeks in advance…..multiply by 6 seminars and you’ve suddenly got 36 emails just about seminars- and yikes- that is 30 more than you really need. I’ve not included in this total the emails that come the day before and the day of the actual event- where I maybe get 2 or 3 announcements per seminar yet AGAIN.  This whole train of forwarding and forwarding has gotten totally out of whack- I can’t find the important email in my inbox anymore over all the damn duplicate emails about SEMINARS….

Seriously, in addition to the email inbox, the spam box, the trash, and the outbox, I need a duplicates box where duplicates go automatically and get deleted at a regular interval…

Grants strategy for the newly minted PI

I’d like to solicit the collective science blogosphere’s opinion on strategy for first grant proposals for the newly minted faculty member.

I learned, back in the day… (ha ha- it cracks me up that I can say that, my teenager would be SO embarrassed)- that the first grant proposal that you submit should be the one for which you have the strongest preliminary data, and that you have published on. This  meant taking the project that you left your postdoc lab with and capitalizing on that data to build your first grant proposal, and had the benefit that you could submit your first grant proposal very shortly after starting your faculty position. We all know how freaking long it takes these days to go through the submission/re-submission process, so I guess I feel like getting an early start at this is critical. But… this approach could have the drawback that newly minted PI is out of the lab writing- basically immediately upon starting their faculty position. They may leave a bunch of new, green personnel, relatively unsupervised for a large block of time at the very beginning- leaving staff without a good foundation.

I realize that this isn’t the only approach to one’s first grant proposal. An alternate approach might be to identify a hot area in the same field, an off-shoot of what you are already doing,  develop the preliminary data for the grant in say the first year or so of one’s faculty position, and submit the first grant after a year or so. This approach might have the benefit that the new PI could take advantage of their single best set of hands (their own!) in the first year and really get an exciting area, and new personnel, off on a solid foundation. The obvious disadvantages are that betting on a publication from this first year, while training new personnel and setting up the lab, seems risky. In addition, by delaying the first submission by one year (or whatever interval) – the clock on the year of waiting in line for review of the first proposal- pushes everything back. Third year reviews come around much more quickly than newly minted faculty can imagine.

What say you all?

Dusting off ye ol’ blog

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve taken three steps back from the blogging business for a while now. Although I don’t want to provide an exhaustive list of reasons for why I did this, I do want to offer a brief explanation. The first, and probably most important reason, is that I don’t feel like I had anything urgent to say- and when I don’t have anything to say it is better just to keep my mouth put my keyboard down rather than to splatter some drivel out there.

The second reason is more complex and is something I’m still not sure I’m totally ok with. I began this blog writing under a pseudonym, and that felt comfortable to me. We can have all kinds of tired arguments now about the benefits and drawbacks of pseudonymous blogging- but the bottom line is that writing this way allowed me to have a voice, a relatively strong voice, without being overly self-conscious. Over time, more and more readers in my actual field of work read the blog and linked my pseudonym with  my real life identity.  I would get lots of lovely emails and complements at meetings about the blog, and that was all great. Except that it wasn’t. The fact that I suddenly knew WHO was reading the blog, fundamentally changed things for me and I developed a bit of  performance anxiety. I’ve got a little bit of inner perfectionist (DrMrA would disagree and say I have A LOT of inner perfectionist)…. and I always seem to choke at the most important times and in front of the most important people. So, instead of continuing to blog and second guessing every single word- I just chose to quiet down for a while. I toyed with shutting up this blog, and starting another under a different name. That doesn’t feel right to me either- because pseudonymity is a thin veil and sooner or later the same thing will happen again- better just to get back on the horse and deal on this blog, I think.

Anyway- in the time I’ve been away a lot has happened. I filled my lab, we did lots of work with a great team and I’m now looking forward to advancing in my career taking on a bigger leadership role. There is PLENTY to write about there. There was also a lot of real life stuff- an illness/hospitalization, single-mom-dom for a while, building of a house, a death, minor struggles with my own teenager… experiences that have scarred and shaped me over the past few years. Some of this was joyful, and some was (and still is) terribly difficult, but I’ll feel less alone in my existence as a mid-career scientist married to a scientist + two kids, if I dust off the old blog and write!